Review: Somewhere

Somewhere | Sofia Coppola, 2010

Sofia Coppola has built her career around stories relating to lonely people, or people isolated from what is going on in the world. She reached the height of her career with Lost in Translation. That movie showed the world that she was her own person, and that she was not going to try to replicate the success of her famous father. However, with Marie Antoinette, she may have lost half of her followers because people mostly hated the passiveness of the story, or the historical liberties she decided to take. For me, that movie was better than the movie she got her Screen Writing Oscar for because it showed that she was growing as a director and was willing to do whatever she wanted for the sake of her art. Now, with Somewhere, many are saying that she ran out of ideas because it is pretty similar to Lost in Translation. That is true, but this is her most mature movie yet, and it showcases her best work as a director yet.

Somewhere tells the story of Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff). From what we can gather, he is a pretty big star. He lives in the Chateau Marmot hotel in California where he has stripper in often, has parties, drives around in a Ferrari, and pretty much lives the life that many of us wish we had.  He also has a daughter named Cleo (Elle Fanning), who he rarely sees because he is not married to her mom, and because he is always busy. One day, she arrives for a surprise visit, and then her mom calls to say that she needs some time, and that Johnny has to take care of her, at least until she has to go to camp. This changes his life completely, as he is forced to say no to the ladies, has to take her to do her things, and well, do fatherly stuff. But during those days, he will realize what a lonely life he leads.

The reason why I say that this is Coppola’s best work as a director is because the script seems very minimalistic. There are a lot of scenes of just people doing stuff, but there is very little dialogue, which means that she had to tell things visually in such a way that we get what the characters are going through, and also, keep it going at a brisk pace. And she does a great job at these two things. The way she shoots the scenes feels very naturalistic. The scenes where Johnny is just sitting around in his living room, with nothing to do made think of my nights where I’m just sitting around with nothing to do, etc. She has a style, but she doesn’t over do it, which made me feel even more connected to the characters. And also, for at 90-minute movie, it moves at a fantastic pace.

Besides her work as director, I must say that she also wrote one of the best movies about family and about the inner working of the mind of a lonely person I’ve seen in a while. From the latter category, we see that he really can’t stand being alone. Like in the scene I mentioned in the other paragraph, where he has nothing to do, he looks as if he wants to be with somebody, and so to compensate, in further scenes he throws parties, and takes sleeping pills so to sleep, even with all those people in his hotel room. And for the former category, it shows the results of suddenly having to take responsibility of a child in a truthful and believable manner. One of the best scenes is where Johnny wants to apologize to Cleo for not being there for her all those years, only to be interrupted by his lifestyle once more in the shape of a helicopter turning on. The movie is full of these beautiful, but smaller moments that pretty much made the movie.

Props must also be given to her for getting out those performances out of her two leads. Stephen Dorff has not had the best career after starring in crappy movie after crappy movie. So, many were surprised when he was picked for this role, but he delivered. Sure, it may not seem like he had to put too much effort into it, but if you look at other actors that have tried to play lonely and hurting-on-the-inside, it looks like they are trying to poop all throughout the movie (like Quinton Aaron in The Blind Side). But Dorff doesn’t. It’s such a natural performance. Elle Fanning also delivers a very natural, fantastic performance. There’s simply not a false not in her work. In fact, this movie has me wondering if she is the most talented of the Fanning sisters, or at least the one that picks better projects (well, except for The Nutcracker in 3D, but she made that like three years ago, so, it doesn’t count).

Even with the beautiful aesthetic and the outstanding performances, Somewhere is all about Sofia Coppola. This is my second favorite movie of hers (after Marie Antoinette), and one of the best movies of the year.

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